How to Identify an American Kestral

How to Identify an American Kestral
Perhaps the most colorful raptor in the world is the American kestrel. This smallish bird is the most common of all falcons throughout the United States and Canada. It dines on insects, small mammals, other birds and amphibians such as frogs. There are several ways to identify the American kestrel, from its colors to its behavior.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to Identify an American Kestral

Step 1
Look for a hawk-like bird that is not very large. The American kestrel is 9 to 10 inches long with a 21- to 24-inch wingspan. It has a long tail and pointed wings that are long and narrow, which allows them to fly very fast. Kestrels have been clocked flying at 40 miles per hour.
Step 2
Watch for a bird with a variety of colors all over its body. The kestrel has bluish-gray wings dotted with black spots. The rump of the kestrel as well as its back will be almost orange with barred markings. The crown of the head is also blue-gray and has orange mixed in. The cheeks are white and the bird has what resembles two mustache marks coming down from each eye.
Step 3
Scan the skies for a hovering bird. The kestrel searches the ground for prey, hovering in the air and then plunging out of the sky onto unsuspecting prey. The American kestrel gets one of its nicknames--windhover--from this type of behavior.
Step 4
Observe high perches such as tree branches and telephone poles for a kestrel. The kestrel will hover if there aren't any good places to sit and watch for potential prey below but prefers a high spot to watch for action.
Step 5
Check tree cavities for a kestrel coming in and out of its nest. The kestrel will use a tree crevice, an old hollowed-out hole in a dead tree or even nest boxes. While the female sits on the eggs you may be able so see the male coming back and forth with food for her.

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